If you're serious about your mobile gaming and want a leg up over your online opponents, the ASUS ROG Phone 2 is the ultimate gaming handset of 2019.
This is one of the first few smartphones to come packed with Qualcomm's jacked-up Snapdragon 855+ chipset. A whopping 6000mAh battery means all-day gaming is perfectly possible, while the 120Hz display delivers crisp, silky smooth visuals to your eyeballs. Frankly, most rivals like the Black Shark 2 can’t touch it in terms of specs, performance and dedicated features.
And that's only the tip of a very dense gaming iceberg. We have gone through almost all of the games in the Google Playstore to conclude that the ROG Phone 2 is undeniably the greatest gaming mobile of all time. But of course, all of that awesome tech doesn't come without a heavy price tag.
DESIGN: FUTURISTIC SPACE TECH
Gaming devices aren’t exactly known for subtle, minimalist design, and the ROG Phone 2 certainly doesn’t stray off that trend. This device looks more like an alien vessel than a smartphone, mostly thanks to the asymmetrical glass rear. From the angular camera grille to the microchip-style pattern, ASUS has added all kinds of frills to help the handset stand out. And that’s before you even touch on the LED logo, which doubles effectively as a huge notification light.
It’s the kind of finish you’d see on a gaming laptop with curves in all the right places so it’s comfortable to hold in your hand. At 240g, this is one of the heaviest handsets ever launched.
DISPLAY AND AUDIO: MEDIA MONSTER
Unlike most flagship devices, the ROG Phone 2 serves up a perfectly flat display that doesn’t curve around the sides. This is better suited to gaming, as those edge-hugging controls remain responsive and easy to use.
You get a 6.59in AMOLED screen with 2340x1080 pixel resolution and HDR10 support. Colour reproduction is accurate and contrast levels are sharp; so pictures, videos and games look wonderfully natural. Like the best gaming smartphones, you also have a 120Hz refresh rate for ultra-smooth visuals, while the 240Hz touch response rate means any poke or swipe is instantly registered. In other words, you can’t blame the phone when you miss that headshot by a split second.
While the new ROG Phone actually offers up a headphone port (something most premium devices have ditched), I was perfectly happy using the built-in stereo speakers for games and movies. They’re front-firing, so you get a full-bodied sound without risk of palm-muffling.
However, I did find that the Bluetooth connection for headphones was a little patchy in busy areas. Music is occasionally distorted or breaks up whenever in a crowded area like a train station or an airport, so we’d recommend plugging in rather than going wireless.
PERFORMANCE AND FEATURES: GAMER’S DREAM
Gaming phones need to really pack a punch when it comes to performance, and the ROG Phone 2 comes up on top. The device features a Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855+, which boasts improved processing power and graphical clout compared with the still-pretty-amazing Snapdragon 855 found in most flagship smartphones.
Games like PUBG Mobile play on highest graphical settings with a super-stable frame rate throughout, as you’d expect. Chances are you won’t see any slowdown for many years to come, although plenty of performance-boosting features are packed into the ROG just in case. It’s just a shame ASUS didn’t add in 5G connectivity too. Support may be unavailable right now in Malaysia but this would have made the ROG Phone 2 even more future-proof.
You can grab all kinds of nifty accessories for this handset, including the Kunai Gamepad which is ideal for fast-paced titles like PUBG. Also helpful are the Air Triggers, two pressure-sensitive areas on the edge of the phone that act like shoulder buttons. These can be mapped to any in-game virtual button and customised to react to different pressure levels. Thankfully ASUS has improved the haptic feedback as well.
The phone’s software is obviously geared towards gamers, including the excellent Game Genie tool which can be conjured up mid-game with a deft swipe. This doesn’t allow you to cheat your pants off like the Game Genie of yesteryear, but delivers a great range of very useful features: you can block calls and notifications so your gaming session is undisturbed, or check out the current frame rate and core temperature if you are obsessed about numbers. Wannabe YouTube sensations can even record their mad skills at up to Full HD resolution, complete with commentary using the effective quad-mic setup.
ASUS ROG UI perfectly matches the gamer aesthetic on the outside. From the neon-tinged app icons to the in-your-face wallpaper, it’s a distinctively cool interface. You can also opt for the standard Zenfone launcher if you’d like something a bit more boring. Either way, you get a bolstered version of Android Pie, complete with plenty of bonus features, including a dark mode, face recognition and gesture recognition.
BATTERY: KEEPS ITS COOL
One area where some gaming phones are found constantly lacking is the battery life. Thankfully ASUS has crammed an absolutely gigantic 6000mAh cell inside the ROG Phone 2, which allows you to play non-stop for almost nine hours. Using the bundled AeroActive adapter, you can even shift that USB port to the edge of the phone, for comfortable charging while you continue fragging fools online.
In terms of cooling, the ROG Phone 2 thankfully doesn’t get toasty while gaming. You get a proper 3D Vapor Chamber cooling system, complete with an actual rear vent to expel that hot air. Even after two or three hours of non-stop action, the glass rear was only slightly warm around that vent. And if you’re charging and playing simultaneously, the AeroActive’s built-in fan helps to keep the heat from rising.
CAMERAS: TWIN SHOOTER
Gaming smartphones rarely have a dependable camera, but ASUS has thankfully opted to reuse the Zenfone 6’s excellent dual-lens shooter for the ROG Phone 2 (albeit without that flip-around motor). This combination of a 48MP primary lens and wide-angle secondary snapper works a treat for everyday pics.
My test photos packed plenty of detail and even in tricky lighting conditions you get wonderful results. That HDR+ mode can combat any harsh contrast, while the night mode helps to brighten up a dim scenario – although admittedly isn’t as strong as Huawei or Google’s version.
For videos, you can shoot in 4K resolution at up to 60 frames per second, for sublimely natural-looking results. Image stabilisation is solid even at Ultra HD level, so you can keep on recording but don’t expect to record action shots while on a skateboard.
If you’re a mobile gamer, the ROG Phone 2 is simply the best piece of kit you can buy right now. This is a super-premium device in every regard, so it doesn’t come cheap, but rivals can’t match it in terms of performance, battery life or accessory support. Even often neglected areas like the camera tech get a big thumbs up.